Cryotherapy is commonly used for the management of soft tissue injury. The dose effect of the applied cooling temperature has not been quantified previously. Six subjects were exposed during five different experiments to local skin temperatures of 16.6 °C, 19.8 °C, 24.7 °C, 27.3 °C, and 37.2 °C for 1 h of active heat transfer followed by 2 h of passive environmental interaction. Skin blood perfusion and temperature were measured continuously at treatment and control sites. All treatments resulted in significant changes in cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC, skin perfusion/mean arterial pressure) compared to baseline values. The drop in CVC for cooling to both 19.8 °C and 16.6 °C was significantly larger than for 27.3 °C (P < 0.05 and P < 0.0005, respectively). The depression of CVC for cooling to 16.6 °C was significantly larger than at 24.7 °C (P < 0.05). Active warming at 37.2 °C produced more than a twofold increase in CVC (P < 0.05). A simulation model was developed to describe the coupled effects of exposure time and temperature on skin perfusion. The model was applied to define an equivalent cooling dose defined by exposure time and temperature that produced equivalent changes in skin perfusion. The model was verified with data from 22 independent cryotherapy experiments. The equivalent doses were applied to develop a nomogram to identify therapeutic time and temperature combinations that would produce a targeted vascular response. The nomogram may be applied to design cryotherapy protocols that will yield a desired vascular response history that may combine the benefits of tissue temperature reduction while diminishing the risk of collateral ischemic injury.

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